Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud had a 157.2 quarterback rating in his first career playoff game, a 31-point win over the highly touted Cleveland Browns defense. In his second career playoff game? Stroud finished with a 72.2 quarterback rating in a 34-10 loss to the Ravens.

“We are not the Browns,” Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith said. “We’re the Baltimore Ravens.”

That’s a simplified explanation for the disparity between performances from Stroud, the favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. But, as there always is with a game plan for Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, the reality involves far more nuance.

With a Texans run game that averaged just 3.7 yards per carry during the season — tied for third worst in the league — the Ravens knew shutting down Stroud was key. Smith said they wanted to “rattle him.”

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“It’s about imposing your will on cats throughout the game,” Smith said.

The Ravens, who led the NFL in sacks, didn’t record one on Stroud. But they hit him five times and, as has been the case all year, sent an exotic mix of blitzes his way.

In the first quarter alone, Stroud was pressured seven times, on 50% of his 14 drop-backs, according to ESPN. Against the Browns, he was pressured eight times all game.

Over the course of the game, the Ravens sent 12 different players, from linemen to linebackers to defensive backs, barreling toward Stroud. They rushed with speed, as well, registering their third-quickest time to pressure of the season (2.40 seconds), according to Next Gen Stats.

Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh feels they might have been able to pressure Stroud even more.

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“Sometimes they were jumping early, where we could have got calls for that,” Oweh said. “And there were also times when they were holding. So I feel like there could have been waaay more pressure, way more impact plays like that. But I feel like what we did out there was enough for a pretty dominant win, so that says a lot.”

Stroud went 5-for-10 for 32 yards and a passer rating of 57.1 against the blitz, compared to 14-for-23 for 143 yards and a 78.7 passer rating when the Ravens didn’t blitz.

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“That was part of the plan, and we executed the plan to a T besides a couple of plays here and there,” Smith said.

Stroud completed five passes of 13 yards or longer, with his longest pass going for 29 yards. However, none of them ended up in the end zone.

The Ravens, meanwhile, stifled the Texans’ run game. They allowed only one explosive play, a 16-yard run by Devin Singletary in the third quarter (Singletary finished with 22 yards on 9 carries, or a remarkable 6 yards on his eight other carries).

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The Ravens averaged 0.79 yards allowed before contact, meaning they were getting to ball carriers as soon as the ball touched their hands.

“The D-line, they did their job like they do all year, you know, making it difficult on the quarterback, stopping the run,” cornerback Brandon Stephens said. “They dominated the run today. And it made the game one dimensional to where they had to pass.”

It was a vicious cycle. The secondary, with Ronald Darby taking over for an injured Marlon Humphrey, didn’t come up with any turnovers (the Ravens led the league in that category, too) but took away throws all night.

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The Ravens held the Texans to 10 points — seven of which came on a punt return — a feat accomplished only twice this season (a 30-6 loss to the Jets and the season-opening 25-9 loss to the Ravens).

“It made us mad that they scored,” Oweh said. “We wanted [it] to look more definitive. But you can’t always have everything. But I still feel like it makes a statement that they didn’t get it on offense; they got it on special teams.”

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This whole season has been about making a statement for a defense that feels the Ravens have been overlooked. They earned the top seed in the AFC, and they’ve punched their ticket to the AFC championship, the first one ever at M&T Bank Stadium. (Baltimore hasn’t hosted one since 1971.)

Now, they wait to see which team is next. The Bills host the Chiefs Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

“I don’t care who it is,” Smith said. “It could be my little cousins. It could be grandparents, or whatever. You roll that ball out there, they gotta get dealt with. They coming to the Bank. By any means necessary. Whoever it is, I don’t care.”

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